One of the real attractions of these traineeships were that they offered a budget for training for qualifications that are asked for when applying for jobs (pesticide, brushcutter etc). The one that I’ve been the most excited about doing, but also the most worried about, was the chainsaw.
Last week Olivia and I spent all week on a chainsaw course. We were doing a combined course that covered the Maintenance and Cross Cutting alongside Felling Small Trees. The odd person has jokingly asked how hard can it be to use a chainsaw. There’s actually quite a lot to know! Using the chainsaw isn’t too difficult but the course was about learning how to do it safely.
We spent Monday and part of Tuesday on maintenance, learning how to check everything is in good condition, when parts need changing and how to sharpen the chain. The rest of Tuesday concentrated on cross cutting and was the first chance we had to actually use the chainsaw. It wasn’t quite as scary as I’d imagined it would be, though if you catch the wood with the wrong bit of the bar the kickback can be pretty fierce! Also wearing all the PPE is pretty hard work – it’s so heavy! I imagine we’ll be pretty fit after a winter of tree work, traipsing around in all that gear.
The rest of the week looked at how to fell trees. We had to learn a series of cuts, as which to use depends on if the tree is straight or leaning, which we practised on some poles. We then headed out to a felling site where we were let loose on some conifer trees. Over the three days we had plenty of time to practice the different cuts, getting down a hung up tree and learning how to sned and process the timber. It was also a chance to get things wrong, and learn from mistakes, such as the time I attempted a split level cut on a backwards leaning tree and pulled out my lever so the tree fell backwards rather then forwards, but I think overall I ended the week feeling pretty happy with what I’d learnt.
Yesterday I went out with Olivia and her mentor Mark Green for a day of practising. The trees we were working on were quite a bit bigger than what we’d worked on as part of the course and they all seemed to get hung up really awkwardly. We had to get a winch in to pull down one of mine. Despite that it was good to have a practice after not using the saw for a few days.
After all the training and practice our assessment was today. Things didn’t get off quite as we imagined as our assessor get stuck in traffic on the M5 so was about an hour late! Despite that once he arrived we cracked right on with things and I’m pleased to say that we both passed 😀 We breezed through the maintenance section and then headed out to the felling site. My first tree went perfectly; the cut was all the right proportions and it got hung up in the tree that I was aiming for. Getting it down from there was a straight forward process of feathering the hinge and rolling the tree out. My second tree went down exactly where I wanted it to as well, though my boring cut was a tad too high. It wasn’t an issue though as our assessor congratulated me and I got handed my piece of paper that proves I’m competent with a chainsaw!
It’s pretty exciting knowing that I’ve now accomplished this; something that should fingers crossed help me get a job after this traineeship (not that I’m thinking about that yet!). I’ll be getting plenty of practice in with the chainsaw over the winter months so should be pretty proficient with it soon enough 🙂